If ever there was a copybook example of stone-faced unflappability, Tanel Leok comes pretty darn close. The Estonian has on occasion even been dubbed "The Ice man" for his inscrutable nature. Going into the final round of the Italian motocross championships with a handsome points lead in his pocket, Tanel therefore dropped nary a hint on whether he was nervous, excited, nonplussed or apprehensive.
The Italian international motocross championship series is atypicall in the sense that it runs in a short, sharp burst at the beginning of the year. By the time that other national championships are just building up steam, the Italian champion is already known. Going into the series finale at Gazzane di Preseglie, it was clear that, barring a mishap of seismic proportions, the title would fall either to Tanel or to teammate Antonio Cairoli. The two Yamaha De Carli teammates unserscored this state of affairs and staked their claims early on race day by qualifying on pole position in their groups respectively.
In race 1, Cairoli fired the gun perfectly, and rode from the holeshot to an unchallenged win. Tanel lumbered himself with the more-usual-than-not mediocre start, and had to fight his way up from 12th. He set a series of sizzling laps in so doing, and claimed a number of prize scalps, including those of not inconsiderable heavyweights such as Kevin Strijbos and Ken De Dycker on the way to fourth position. In the glow of the race's dying embers, he still managed to move close enough to factory Yamaha's Joshua Coppins to exert heavy pressure, but the experienced New Zealander snatched the final podium spot with a one second margin.
Cairoli again charged to a post-to-post win in race two, doing all that was in his power to claim the title. It was up to Tanel to defend his 12 point lead that he took into the last heat. A better start placed him in fifth position, and with the pace fierce up front, he managed to gain one position to cross the line fourth again behind Cairoli, Strijbos and Jonathan Barragan on the factory KTM.
Even though Cairoli enjoyed a perfect outing, Tanel had done enough to claim the Italian title. This adds yet another notch to his already impressive title belt, which includes international titles from Estonia, Germany, England and Holland. Speaking from the road on the way back to Belgium, the Estonian Express was clearly happy with the outcome. "The race results were not perfect," he said, "but my speed was good. Everything is working well with the team, and I am happy with this title."
Tanel will have a free weekend before rolling up for the big one, the first GP of the year at Faenza, Italy, on two weeks' time.
THE ITALIAN CHAMPIONS BEING HONOURED
(Pic - Off Road Pro Racing)